About halfway through the NY4P Daffodil Project bulb distribution at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, volunteer Jennifer Fragale realized she had lost her wedding ring while loading bags with bulbs.
It was a daunting environment for a search: 53,000 bulbs splayed out in bags along a curb at a teeming farmers’ market. But though the ring didn’t turn up, Jennifer’s smile didn’t fade, and she continued to pitch in until the end of the event.
Fragale not only loves volunteering, she loves New York City. A New Jersey native, she moved to the city in 2003 and immediately fell in love with the lifestyle – and the city itself – so much that she wanted to share her enthusiasm with others.
“New York was so good to me, so I wanted others to feel the same way about it,” she said.
After she graduated from the School for Visual Arts in 2005, she began volunteering each Tuesday night at New York Cares, teaching a computer class to seniors near her Chelsea apartment.
A longtime nature-lover, she also got involved with the 300 West Block Association, where she enjoyed meeting her neighbors.
“It really felt like a hometown community in the middle of the city,” she said.
The Association connected her with the Chelsea Garden Club, where she helped spearhead an effort to plant flowers in pits along the newly installed bike lanes on 9th Avenue. The Club’s efforts weren’t officially sanctioned by the City, but no one had been assigned to take care of the pits, so Fragale stepped in.
“I was basically just going to the Union Square Greenmarket and buying flowers,” she said.
The City soon noticed and leant support to the Club’s self-appointed stewardship efforts. With the backing of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane, the Club was awarded a grant from MillionTreesNYC in 2011.
“I’ll never forget when we were planting, and a woman came up to us and said ‘you’re adding a piece of heaven to a warzone!’ That’s something that made me realize how much the community appreciated what we were doing,” Fragale said.
The pits plantings include an array of perennials - including daffodils, which is how she became involved in NY4P’s Daffodil Project. She joined us last year at our Brooklyn and Manhattan distributions, displaying the same upbeat spirit and willingness to pitch in that make her such a valued member of our volunteer Bulb Brigade.
“Jen was always a great help,” said Meredith Ledlie, who ran the Project for NY4P from 2010 to 2011. “She’s very positive and reliable, two great qualities for a volunteer to have.”
That Fragale joined The Daffodil Project, one of the largest volunteer efforts in the city’s history, was only fitting: volunteerism – whether teaching seniors or beautifying her neighborhood – has been a near-constant in her life since becoming a New Yorker. It’s also fitting that she met her husband, Raymond, at a 2008 volunteer event.
Which brings us back to the wedding ring episode. It was sad for Fragale – but not calamitous. For one, she said, Raymond lost his, too, so this evened things out. And second, it was lost while working for a cause she loves: making New York City a more beautiful place.
“If the ring ends up planted in the ground next to beautiful flowers,” she said, “that’s OK with me.”
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